M.D. Drysdale, 1944-2021

Jun 1, 2021


RANDOLPH, Vermont —Maurice Dickey Drysdale, 76, editor/publisher emeritus of the White River Valley Herald, died early morning, April 28, 2021, at his home on LaBounty Road in Randolph.

He was born into a newspaper family on November 10, 1944, in Concord, Massachusetts. His parents, John and Eleanor Drysdale, had met at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union newspaper, where Dickey’s maternal grandfather and namesake, Maurice Dickey, had been editor/publisher.

The Drysdale family moved to Randolph in April 1945. There, his father purchased the White River Valley Herald from L.B. Johnson and served as its editor/publisher for the next 30 years.

Dickey’s first job, at age 11, was to shovel snow off the sidewalk in front of the Herald. During his teen years, he helped to put the paper together on Wednesday nights at the printing plant on Weston Street.

He graduated from Randolph Union High School in 1962 and Harvard University in 1966. He worked at the Springfield Union from 1966-69 and earned his Masters in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971. He then returned home to Randolph to take the reins from his father at the White River Valley Herald.

He served as editor/publisher of the White River Valley Herald for the next 44 years. During his tenure, he and his staff continued to produce an award-winning weekly newspaper, covering 16 towns in the White River Valley.

He was a masterful wordsmith with an encyclopedic knowledge of local, state, and national government. He earned numerous awards from the Vermont Press Association for news writing, editorial writing, sports writing, and music criticism. He was a seven-times winner of editorial awards from the International Society of Weekly News Editors, and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s hall of fame in 2015.

For many years, he was Eric Michaels’ weekly guest on WDEV Radio, informing listeners of the latest news from the White River valley. He also appeared many times in roundtable political discussions on WCAX television’s “Vermont This Week.”

He met his bride-to-be, Marjorie Balgooyen in 1972, when they both were singing in the same chorus.

“He was the most interesting person I’d ever met,” recalled Marjorie. “After a while, I realized he was so interesting because he was so interested. He was interested in everything and everybody.”

They married in 1975 in the historic Braintree Hill Meetinghouse, and moved into the Drysdale family home on LaBounty Road, where they have lived ever since, raising two sons, Robin Bruce and James Monteath Drysdale.

He served for 25 years as treasurer of the Vermont Press Association. He served on the Randolph Area Community Development Corporation (RACDC), devoting many hours of his time to help rebuild Randolph after the town’s two tumultuous fires. He was a past president of the Randolph Chamber of Commerce and the Randolph Rotary Club.

For 25 years, he directed the Randolph Singers, introducing a whole generation of singers to the great choral masterworks. An able tenor and an excellent sight-reader, he continued singing with this chorus for the rest of his life. He also sang with the Bel Canto Chamber Singers, the Sounding Joy! vocal ensemble, Ken’s Barbershop Quartet, Bethany Church Choir, and the Onion River Chorus.

His father’s family was of Scottish heritage. It was John Drysdale who named their Randolph home, “The Croft,” a Scottish term for home. Dickey developed a keen interest in Scottish history and a deep love for Scottish and Celtic music.

He worked each year with a Chandler committee to plan and present the “New World Festival,” a celebration of French-Canadian and Celtic music. He was an avid contra dancer, making sure to always save the last waltz for Marjorie.

He served for many years on the board of the Albert B. Chandler Foundation, including a term as interim president. He was a lifelong member of Bethany Church in Randolph, where he enjoyed giving occasional children’s sermons and teaching Sunday school classes.

In 2007, he and Marjorie were named Honorary Conductors of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. In 2015, they were given the Jim Hutchinson Award for community service, where they were described as “a dynamic duo dedicated to engaging, informing, and entertaining our community with story and song.”

In 2016, Dickey and Marjorie were asked if they might return to the podium to lead the Randolph Singers through 2018, the chorus’ 50th anniversary. They happily accepted. Although this task became increasingly challenging for Dickey as his health declined, he persevered, buoyed by the love of the Singers. In December of 2018, the Singers presented their Golden Jubilee holiday concert, where Dickey picked up his baton for the very last time.

Through the years, Dickey, Marjorie, and their sons summited many of the high peaks in the Adirondacks of New York, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the Katahdin region of Maine.

In June of 2018, Dickey, Marjorie, and group of friends climbed to Greenleaf Hut in the White Mountains, where the couple had spent their honeymoon so many years ago. The next day, they summitted Mt. Lafayette, proceeded along the Franconia Ridge, and returned via the steep, “Falling Waters” trail. It was his final hike.

Even as his health deteriorated, he tried to get outdoors at least once a day to take a few steps around the Croft or to take a scenic car ride. Invariably, he would gaze at the countryside, then at his wife, and declare, “I’m so lucky.”

Downhill and cross-country skiing also were lifelong passions of his. He learned to ski at Randolph’s Farr’s Hill and later served on the board of Randolph’s Pinnacle Skiways.

He enjoyed travel, but there was no place like home. He felt that he had the best neighbors in the world. At the Croft he loved to walk in the woods, swim in the pond, ski out his back door, and cut wood for the winter months, saving an ample supply for March, when the Drysdale family would make maple syrup together.

Dickey had enormous respect for the people in his communities. He featured them in editorials and essays in the Herald. Many also were published in Vermont Life and Yankee magazine. He especially held Vermont farmers in high regard, in awe of their many skills and tireless work ethic.

He wrote three books –– “Vermont Moments,” a book of essays and poems, “Dancing in the Potato Patch,” a book of poetry, and “Not a Bad Seat in the House,” a history of Chandler Music Hall, which combined his own research with essays by local historians. He collaborated with his staff at the Herald to produce “The Wrath of Irene,” covering the effects of Hurricane Irene on the White River Valley.

Through his involvement in the Rotary Club, Dickey ran a speech-writing contest every year at the local high schools. He also solicited and judged essays for the Eleanor Dickey writing scholarship. He welcomed high school interns at the newspaper office and thoroughly enjoyed mentoring them as they developed their writing skills.

Dickey was a loving husband, a devoted father, a beloved choral conductor, a pianist, singer, and fiddler.

He was an eloquent poet, a vigorous hiker, a lover of the woods, mountains and streams, a dedicated journalist, a fascinating conversationalist, a man of wit, and an absolutely elegant skier.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Marjorie; his sons, Robin Bruce Drysdale of Brooklyn, New York. and James Monteath Drysdale of Stevensville, Montana; his sister, Ellen Drysdale and husband, Bob Squires of Berlin, Vermont.; his sister, Isobel Drysdale of Pueblo, Colorado.; 10 nieces and nephews, and 13 grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

A celebration of his life will take place this summer, when it is safer for people to gather together.

Memorial contributions in his honor can be made to the Chandler Center for the Arts, 71 N. Main St, Randolph, VT 05060 (https://bit.ly/2TtrdAt), or to the Randolph Singers, P.O. Box 192, Randolph, VT, 05060 (https://bit.ly/3paer5E).